Unconstrained by Conventional Ideas
When I began my nine years of Vermont Works for Women board service, VWW was called “Northern New England Tradeswomen,” true to its original mission of training women for nontraditional jobs. But its mission had already expanded to providing young girls with nontraditional summer camps—Rosie’s Girls—at which they would learn they could cut and weld metal, build furniture, wire a lamp and much more. Because women are likely to need encouragement to take on “men’s jobs” such as police work and carpentry, VWW had developed a series of training programs to bridge the gap—the Step Up programs. And what was then the large Windsor prison allowed for a vocational program in which women built modular homes that became low-income housing—acquiring new, marketable skills and, as a film later made by one of the prisoners testified, self-respect grounded in new mastery. Thus the change to “Vermont Works for Women.”
As with the name, VWW programs have had to evolve over the years as conditions, such as the State moving women to the small Chittenden Correctional Facility or, on the positive side, rising demand for nontraditional girls’ camps, have changed. Others, like the Women Can Do jobs fair in the fall and Step Up to Policing, are going strong.
This is a testament to the soundness of the original mission—programs for women and girls that would provide real-world skills leading to better-paying jobs, and, through them, independence and a stronger sense of self.
I urge anyone interested in the growth of girls into self-sufficient women unconstrained by conventional ideas of what women can do to read the materials on the Vermont Works for Women website. And pitch in wherever you feel called to do so.